Most Americans believe pandemic remains a major threat, poll says; 1 in 500 Americans have died: Latest COVID-19 updates

More than a year and a half into the coronavirus outbreak, most Americans believe the coronavirus remains a major threat to public health and the U.S. economy, according to a Pew Research Center report released Wednesday.

Despite widespread vaccination efforts, 54% of U.S. adults say the worst of the outbreak is still to come. The report, based on a survey of 10,348 U.S. adults conducted Aug. 23-29, 2021, found 73% of those ages 18 and older say they’ve received at least one dose of a vaccine for COVID-19. About a quarter of adults say they have not received a vaccine. Some of the lowest vaccination rates are seen among those with no health insurance and white evangelical Protestants (57% each) as well as among Republicans and Republican leaners (60%).

Black adults are now about as likely as white adults to say they’ve received a vaccine (70% and 72%, respectively). Earlier in the outbreak, African Americans were less likely to say they planned to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Also in the news:

►Maine Senate President Troy Jackson and Senate Majority Leader Eloise Vitelli have tested positive despite being vaccinated. Jackson said he had no symptoms; Vitelli said hers were mild.

►Donald Kauerauf, Missouri’s new health czar, said it was crucial to retool the state’s vaccine message with a goal of getting 80% of the state’s residents jabbed. About 52.8% have gotten at least one dose, state data shows. “We failed, as a nation, public health because we got to this point,” he said.

►A Minnesota judge has rejected a request by concerned parents to force a statewide mask mandate in all schools. Ramsey County District Judge Thomas Gilligan said the court was “gravely concerned” about the virus but said the court lacked the legal authority to order Gov. Tim Walz to issue the directive.

►”Saturday Night Live” alum Jim Breuer says on his Facebook page that he won’t perform at venues requiring proof of vaccination. Breuer says he wouldn’t attend two scheduled standup shows “due to the segregation of them forcing people to show up with vaccinations, to prove you’re vaccinated.”

►A federal judge temporarily blocked New York on Tuesday from forcing medical workers to be vaccinated after a group of health care workers sued.

📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 41 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 663,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 225 million cases and 4.6 million deaths. Nearly 179 million Americans — 54% of the population — have been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

📘What we’re reading: France re-opened to all Americans in June. Despite the EU’s recent recommendation for member countries to ban Americans, it’s still open – at least to vaccinated U.S. residents. Read what it’s like to visit Paris as a vaccinated American during the pandemic.

Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s Coronavirus Watch newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

Nearly 3M Americans buy insurance during Obamacare special enrollment

Some 2.8 million Americans signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act during a special enrollment period that President Joe Biden enacted to help people find coverage during the coronavirus pandemic. Just days after taking office, Biden signed an executive order to reopen insurance enrollment on HealthCare.gov, giving a new coverage opportunity to Americans who lost their jobs and employer-based insurance during the pandemic. The initial special enrollment period ran from Feb. 15 through May 15, but Biden later extended it through Aug. 15.

The new enrollments mean 2.8 million families “will have more security, more breathing room, and more money in their pocket if an illness or accident hits home,” Biden said.

Altogether, 12.2 million Americans are actively enrolled in coverage under the Affordable Care Act – an all-time high, Biden said.

– Michael Collins

More than 5K Chicago students in quarantine

By the end of the second week of school in the nation’s third-largest school district, Chicago Public Schools had directed more than 5,600 students and nearly 100 staff members to quarantine, according to district data provided by the Chicago Teachers Union. Meanwhile, Chicago Public Schools data posted online suggests nearly 3,000 students were close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases since the first day of classes Aug. 30. A district spokesperson did not respond to USA TODAY inquiries about the discrepancy. The district has more than 340,000 students.

– Grace Hauck

Survey: August COVID hospital bills of $3.7B were double June, July combined

A surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations among people who have not been vaccinated is adding billions of dollars in preventable costs to the nation’s health-care system, a Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) analysis found.

In August, the new analysis estimates that the preventable costs of treating unvaccinated patients in hospitals total $3.7 billion, almost twice the estimates for June and July combined. The total preventable costs for those three months now stand at an estimated $5.7 billion. The estimates draw on KFF’s analysis of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services data and find that each COVID-19 hospitalization on average results in roughly $20,000 in hospital costs.

1 in 500 Americans have died from COVID

The United States reached another pandemic milestone on Tuesday: One of every 500 Americans has died of COVID-19, Johns Hopkins University data shows. With the 662,899th death, America reported a toll equal to 0.2% of the population, based on the number of people who answered the 2020 Census that was conducted near the beginning of the pandemic. Half of those deaths have happened since just before Christmas 2020. 

The country reached this point as hospitalizations have surged due to the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus. The surge has caused shortages in health care facilities not seen since the winter peak of COVID-19, before vaccines were widely available in the U.S.

As of last week, the U.S. has also recorded more COVID-19 cases in 2021 than in the previous year. In the last 28 days, the country has recorded 4.3 million new cases and more than 39,000 deaths.

Mike Stucka

Clinics specialize in post-infection COVID issues

Clinics are opening across the nation specifically to treat patients with post-infection COVID-19 illness. Just like the virus, these new clinics are far from uniform. Some focus on one or a handful of symptoms, such as smell and taste, headaches or heart problems. Others seek to address a range of complaints. Some formed specifically to treat long-haul COVID-19. Doctors find themselves engaging in trial and error to figure out what works.

Dr. Zijian Chen, an endocrinologist at the Icahn School of Medicine at New York’s Mount Sinai, said he’s concerned that clinics will treat those who show up at their doors rather than all those who need help.

“We don’t want to preferentially treat those who seek help,” he said. “We want to reach out to those who may not even know the help is out there.” Read more here.

Stephanie Innes and Shari Rudavsky

Biden order: Vaccine mandate or testing mandate?

A week ago, President Joe Biden signed a measure requiring employees of businesses with 100 or more workers be either vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing if they aren’t working from home. It’s been called a vaccine mandate but experts say it can just as easily be thought of as a testing mandate. Both will help the ultimate goal of fighting the pandemic but there are tradeoffs. Vaccination, while contentious for some, is free. Testing helps slow the spread but is costly and it’s not yet known who will pay. But testing alone is not enough, experts say.

“You’re not going to test your way out of the pandemic,” said Daniel Salmon, director of the Institute for Vaccine Safety at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “We need high levels of population immunity that are going to come from vaccination, which provides better protection than from natural infections.”

Elizabeth Weise

COVID-19 kills 6 members of Florida family in 3 weeks

For months, Lisa Wilson went door to door in Belle Glade, Florida, trying to convince people to get the coronavirus vaccine. Despite Wilson’s insistence that the shots would save lives, some members of her own family ignored her. In the last three weeks, six of them died from complications of COVID-19.

The nightmare began in late August when her 48-year-old uncle died. A day after his funeral, her 89-year-old grandmother was hospitalized and died 24 hours later.

In quick succession, three more cousins followed, and on Sunday, a 44-year-old assistant football coach in her family died.

“I was in their ears almost every day. ‘You’ve just got to do this,’” Wilson said Tuesday. “I’m beating myself up. Should I have pushed harder?”

— Jane Musgrave, Palm Beach Post

Tennessee pastor banned from Twitter over COVID-19 misinformation

Controversial Tennessee pastor Greg Locke, who has repeatedly been accused of spreading misinformation about COVID-19, was banned from Twitter on Tuesday. After the permanent suspension, Locke, who pastors Global Vision Bible Church in Mt. Juliet, posted a video on Facebook saying he was being censored for “dropping gospel bombs.”

Locke’s church has held in-person services, including in a tent, since 2020 amid the pandemic. He has been vocal in his opposition to COVID-19 protocols, even declaring his church a mask-free area. 

— Natalie Neysa Alund, The Tennesseean

Arizona sues over federal vaccine rules for workers

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich on Tuesday filed a legal challenge to the federal requirements for businesses to require COVID-19 vaccinations or weekly testing at companies with 100 or more employees, calling it an overreach. 

“This is an infringement on individual liberties,” Brnovich said Tuesday on a call with reporters, adding that the law leaves such health decisions to the states.

Brnovich’s office filed a complaint in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona seeking a ruling that declares the new federal policies unconstitutional. The Attorney General’s Office said the lawsuit was the first of its kind filed in the U.S., though more action is expected across the country. Under President Joe Biden’s plan, the requirement for employees to be vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing applies to employers with 100 or more workers. Employers that don’t comply could face fines of $14,000 per violation.

— Ryan Randazzo, Arizona Republic

Contributing: The Associated Press

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